From all indications, our ambition of meeting and even surpassing the success of the 2015 general elections that brought President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, to power was dashed last weekend.
The Presidential and National Assembly elections were generally peaceful in the usually volatile North (including areas where the Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani herdsmen militias and bandits had held sway) in spite of the many pre-election incidents, especially around Kano. But in several parts of the South, the story was markedly different.
There was much bloodshed, particularly in Rivers and Bayelsa States where many voters and electoral officials were killed by security officials.
In Lagos, though the election was peaceful in most parts of the metropolis, several incidents of thuggery, ballot-snatching, harassment and intimidation of voters, vandalisation, burning of electoral materials and gunfire were reported in the Surulere, Aguda, Isolo, Okota and other areas in a manner that raised ethnic tensions.
After the elections there were several rumours and fears that the results were being tampered with, thus stoking much anxiety in the polity, especially as the release of the results were delayed beyond the period witnessed in 2015.
It is very disheartening that in spite of the elaborate preparations by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and other statutory bodies involved in delivering the general elections, we were still thrown back to the dark past when elections were do-or-die affairs. Despite President Buhari’s controversial threat that ballot-snatchers would be made to “pay with their lives” by security agencies, hoodlums still operated at will in Lagos and Rivers States.
This general election is an opportunity for Nigeria as a nation to demonstrate her best virtues before the world as we did in 2015 to great applause. It is the prime platform for the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate the integrity with he has been branded. There were absolutely no reasons for us to look back to 2015 with nostalgia when there was a seamless change of leadership without fuss or bloodshed after a very peaceful election.
We call on political leaders from across the divides to mobilise their members and ensure we manage the outcomes of these polls to avoid the breakdown of law and order. After all, elections are merely the means to an end: good governance. We cannot emphasise enough the importance of peace and national cohesion irrespective of who wins or loses.
The eyes of the whole world are on us. If we mis-manage these elections the consequences can be far-reaching, as the world regards illegitimate regimes as international outcasts. We have been there before, and we don’t want to go back there again.
Let the people’s will prevail at all levels.